IN order to hide their illicit act, top government officials use left hands to sign foreign accounts they operate in the names of their wives
and relatives, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) revealed on Thursday.
The constitution forbids government officials from operating foreign accounts while in office, with the bureau as the enforcer of the law.
Bureau’s chairman, Mr Sam Saba, at a media parley in Abuja, noted that very few government officials are honest about the operation of foreign accounts, who usually close them on the advice of the bureau and produce proof of closure, while many of them hide the accounts, observing the law in breach.
He stated that he was fortunate to come into privileged information from an international banker, who revealed to him that numerous government officials had devised means of hiding the foreign accounts when opening and running them while in office.
Saba added that the banker told him that when the defaulting officials were opening the accounts, they used either their wives’ or relatives’ names, and signed with their left hands in order to make the accounts untraceable to them.
When they were reportedly asked by the bankers if their wives knew about the usage of their names in opening the said accounts, Saba said he was told that the officials would tell the foreign bankers to forget about the aspect of the deal and just open the accounts, which indicated that their wives do never got to know that their names were being used for money laundering.
He acknowledged that it had been difficult tracing the foreign accounts belonging to these top officials, though he was confident that with the decision of the bureau to invite the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) into the matter, the identities of the affected officials would soon be made known, as well as the balances in those accounts.
According to him: “Very few of them [public officials] are usually honest on foreign accounts. They close and write and show us proofs. But they are very few. A lot of them operate but they hide under different names and they sign with their left hands which makes the accounts difficult to trace to them.”
Saba, who vowed to make public officials accountable over their assets, also added that the bureau would soon write to banks where the accounts of public officers who just left offices are domiciled, as investigation continues in their asset verification.
The bureau boss further stated that the usual excuses from the defaulting officials were that they had wards abroad to cater for, medical bills to pay when on medical trips abroad and mortgages to defray.
He noted that he had advised them to open a domiciliary account in the country instead of running foul of the law, which many of them had completely ignored.
Saba, who had served as the secretary for the bureau, cited the example of Nasarawa State, where it had been discovered during asset verification that some of the immediate past commissioners were making a deposit of N5 million every month into their accounts but presented balance of N1, 000 when the bureau commissioner in charge of the state demanded their asset declaration, adding that such officials would be investigated further.
He disclosed that it had been discovered that some names of high-ranking public officers sent to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for prosecution were removed from the list, vowing that those behind such criminal act would soon be fished out, as he was determined to get to the root of the matter by initiating talks with the new acting chairman of the tribunal.
Saba said the trial of former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, was being delayed by the non-appointment of other members that would sit alongside the acting chairman, adding that the charge against him on illegal operation of foreign accounts while in office is still before the tribunal.
Disclosing that both President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo had declared their assets, Saba noted that a major achievement of the bureau was its renewed independence, which would not require it to seek the approval of the Attorney-General of the Federation before charging offenders.